Acquit ‘pork’ allies? Binay says that’s far-fetched

Vice President Jejomar Binay also says: 'It is also wrong to say they are guilty because it is the court that will determine that, not the executive department'

'NOT SELECTIVE.' Vice President Jejomar Binay says he will be fair and "not selective" if elected president even if his allies are respondents in the pork barrel scam. Photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay responded to persistent questions on whether or not he will go soft on his allies implicated in the pork barrel scam if he is elected president in 2016.

Binay said he will follow due process as a human rights lawyer, and speculation that he will protect senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile is far-fetched.

Baka na naman sabihin ‘pag ako ang naging presidente, absuwelto na sila. Ang layo naman noon,” Binay said in press briefing on Friday, March 7. (People might again say that if I become president, they will be acquitted. That is far-fetched.)

The Vice President’s statement comes after United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Toby Tiangco said that Binay will not hesitate to send his allies to jail if found guilty. Binay founded UNA for the 2013 polls.

Asked about the statement, Binay said, “Lahat ay pantay-pantay ang trato sa mata ng batas. It’s not selective.” (All will be treated equally in the eyes of the law.)

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday challenged Binay to make a strong statement on the issue, warning that the Philippines will fall under a Binay presidency. Cayetano admitted he wants to be president but is still testing if 2016 is the best time.

Reporters repeatedly tried to ask Binay about Cayetano’s criticism, but the Vice President dodged the inquiries. “Ah next question, please? I don’t want to play the game they want me to do…. Wala naman akong oras pumatol sa pinagsasasabi niya.” (I don’t have the time to respond to his statements.)

Asked if Cayetano was baiting him to get into a word war, Binay said, “Galing sa iyo iyan. Kanya-kanyang estilo iyan eh.” (You’re the one who said that. Each one has a style.)

Binay’s allies, Estrada and Enrile, face a plunder complaint over the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, where they supposedly funneled discretionary funds meant for development projects to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.

Still, Binay again said he is considering Estrada as a running mate, along with other choices like Batangas Governor Vilma Santos Recto. The governor’s husband, Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has issued a statement, saying Vilma is not interested in a higher post in 2016.

‘Innocent til proven guilty’

Binay though said that the court will have to determine the guilt of Estrada and Enrile. 

“Strictly speaking, mali rin iyon [sabihing guilty sila] kasi ang magsasabi na guilty sila ay husgado, hindi naman executive department. Just to be strict about it.” (It is also wrong to say they are guilty because it is the court that will determine that, not the executive department.)

The Vice President decried what he called “guilt by association” after the release of photos of Estrada with alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

Porque magkasama kayo sa litrato ay magkasama na kayo roon? Ganoong simplified, guilt by association. It must be concrete evidence. The only thing that’s proven is they appeared in the picture,” Binay said. (Just because you are together in a photo you are already together in the scam? That’s simplified.)

Binay said he subscribes to the constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence.

Asked if he will also send the 90-year-old Enrile to jail if found guilty, Binay said, “Bakit, guilty na ba si Enrile? (Why, is Enrile already guilty?) When people say they are guilty, why, you are forgetting the constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence. I think the most accurate [statement] is cases will be filed against them but to say they are guilty, ano ba naman (what is that)? Sa America, ground for mistrial pag naipa-publish nang publish na guilty.” (In America, it’s a ground for mistrial if you keep publishing that they are guilty.)

Is he extending any support to his allies? “Ipinagdadasal ko sila na ang totoo ang lumabas at siyang mangyari.” (I am praying for them that the truth will come out and unfold.)

Binay said he will not be hypocritical by denying that he is meeting with Estrada and Enrile. He admitted that they discuss the case at times.

“O, baka ma-critique na naman ako niyan dahil nakikipag-usap ako doon ah. For a time, they were low in spirit, ‘di naman demoralized,” he said. (Oh, I might get criticized again that I talk to them. For a time, they were low in spirit, not demoralized.)

Cunanan? Expert witness can tell truth

Binay was also asked about the testimony of potential state witness Dennis Cunanan at a Senate hearing, where he said he personally called Estrada, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Enrile’s chief of staff lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes to verify their signatures in pork barrel documents.

“The battle will be with the expert witness. There must be an expert witness who will say the conclusion is correct. ‘I confirm, here are the [findings] we have based on the machine.’ The mere testimony of voice is not yet that strong an evidence,” Binay said.

The Vice President again qualified his statements on the scam. He drew flak after he was quoted as saying that the testimony of potential state witness Ruby Tuason was a “dud.” He denied saying the word.

Cayetano said that Binay’s statements “belittled” the efforts of the justice department to prosecute the case.

Binay said what he said was that the self-confessed bagman must meet the qualifications to be a state witness, including not being the most guilty in the case.

“’Yung isang magkakandidato dinidikit ako lagi sa state witness. Nag-react lang ako sa state witness as a human rights lawyer pero dinidikit ako kasi kasama ko raw sa pulitika.”

(This candidate always tags me in the state witness issue. I only reacted as a human rights lawyer but he keeps dragging me into the issue because he said the ones involved are my allies.) –

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